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Answers Sought From Police, Fire Departments in Robber's Death

Shootout: Councilwoman calls for response on North Hollywood heist's aftermath. Parks and Bamattre denounce the allegations.

April 22, 1998|SCOTT GLOVER and STEVE BERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

By the time an ambulance sent to his aid arrived, it was too late. Matasareanu had succumbed to injuries that could have been treated with standard emergency care. These findings contrast sharply with city authorities' version of events.

Police and fire department officials have said rescuers in the first ambulance to reach the scene opted to take a wounded citizen to the hospital because his injuries were severe but treatable, while Matasareanu appeared to have little chance of survival. Authorities also said they could not send a second ambulance to pick up Matasareanu because the scene where he lay wounded was a so-called kill zone in which other suspects were believed to be at large.

"I don't think [The Times' report] gave the [the police officers and firefighters] a fair shake," said Don Vincent, the deputy city attorney who is defending Los Angeles in the suit filed on behalf of Matasareanu's children.

For example, Vincent said, the fact that a 3-year-old child was allowed to play on her family's patio just a few feet from where Matasareanu lay bleeding should not suggest that the area was not dangerous.

"That doesn't lessen the danger," Vincent said. The Times' reconstruction of the events, he said, "diminished the danger these [police officers and firefighters] felt."

Contrary to The Times' findings, police and fire officials contend that the area where Matasareanu lay was "too hot" for an ambulance to come to his rescue.

Vincent added: "You cannot point out anything a police officer did that was malicious or intentional."

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Times staff writer Matt Lait contributed to this story.

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